Rural Broadband Policy Group

The Rural Broadband Policy Group is a growing national coalition of rural broadband advocates that emerged from the National Rural Assembly. The group's goals are  
1) to articulate national broadband policies that provide opportunities for rural communities to participate fully in the nation's democracy, economy, culture, and society, and
2) to spark national collaboration among rural broadband advocates. 

Rural Broadband Principles
The Rural Broadband Policy Group upholds the following principles to articulate broadband and internet policies for rural America. We encourage the administration, agencies, and rural broadband advocates to adopt these principles as a framework to develop a national broadband plan.

  1. Communication is a fundamental human right.
  2. Rural America is diverse.
  3. Local ownership and investment in community are priorities.
  4. Network neutrality and open access are vital.

Communication is a fundamental human right.
Lack of access to broadband denies rural people the fundamental human right to communicate. Without broadband, rural communities are isolated from the new model of economic and civic participation. Economic distress in rural communities – lack of jobs, inadequate education, poor health care, outflow of local talent, etc. – is exacerbated by the inability to communicate. As the nation moves forward in new ways with advanced digital communications, broadband access becomes a fundamental human right, not a luxury. Protecting and expanding this right will provide more resources for rural people and other marginalized populations to improve economic conditions and advance with the rest of the nation.

Rural America is diverse. 
Rural America is diverse in terrains, cultures, foods, peoples, and knowledge. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for rural communities. Tribal lands are an example of the diverse needs of rural areas. Tribal sovereignty includes the right of each Native Nation to govern relationships and territory within tribal homelands.  As with each tribe, each rural community has its own land-based network of knowledge. This diversity of rural America must be represented in national broadband policies. Priority should be given to policies that support diverse technologies, develop locally produced broadband content, encourage appropriate data collection to track broadband access, and respect the unique characteristics of each community. 

Local ownership and investment in community are priorities.
The success of a project lies in the commitment of those who envision and apply it. Policies that prioritize local ownership invest in the success of geographic communities. Absentee-ownership of broadband infrastructure and service has failed to serve rural communities in part because outside corporations fear rural areas will not return profits available from wealthier, more densely populated markets. Local ownership of broadband infrastructure and service can address problems ignored by absentee-owners such as lack of broadband access, slow speeds, limited (if any) provider choice, open access, training and adoption of technology, data collection, and aggregation of demand. Rural communities must have the opportunity to own local communications infrastructure, not only to boost their local economies, but to ensure that broadband is accessible to every rural community in the nation. 

Network neutrality and open access are vital.
Rural areas generally have less access to all forms of media, not just broadband. Therefore, net neutrality, which establishes the principle of open and unfiltered access to information, is important for rural communities. The ability to originate content on an equitable and symmetric basis is also necessary to meet the public interest.

Rural Strategies' work on broadband and media policy is supported by the Media Democracy Fund.